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Vulpecula – Fons Immortalis Award winner

Vulpecula
Fons Immortalis
by Gary Hernandez at 11 January 2021, 11:46 AM

VULPECULA was a Black Metal project hailing from an unsuspecting Kansas City, Missouri, US. The duo formed in 1994 when Chuck Keller reached out to Chris Overton with an idea to fuse “black metal with ambient, space-oriented sounds.” Together they released two EPs before the project’s dissolution in 1999. Their first EP, “Fons Immortalis” has recently been reissued on October 1, 2020 by Nuclear War Now! Productions.

The word “vulpecula” translates to “little fox" in Latin. It’s also a small, faint constellation in the northern hemisphere. “Fons immortalis” is also Latin. It means “immortal source.” I’m not sure any of this has bearing on the music itself except for the invocation of the immeasurable emptiness of dark, cold space and the ultimate insignificance of our existence which we absurdly cling to. Oh.

“Fons Immortalis” as an EP pretty much lives up to the vision Chuck had in 1994. There are certainly aspects of the album that are nothing but ambient, but there are also large swaths that are so heavy they threaten to collapse in on themselves — you know, black holes, white dwarfs, and all that space physics. The duo somehow pulls off the improbable fusion of these vastly different styles, and the result is incredible. It’s hard to believe this album is two decades old.

There’s a lot to untangle in regard to which tracks were first recorded on which demo and which ones were rerecorded for this new release . . . so I won’t even try. Suffice it to say, there’s some production history to unravel if you’re so inclined to do your own research. The original EP comprised six distinct tracks. The reissue, or at least the digital version I have, packages the album into two long tracks, each consisting of one side of the original EP. You wouldn’t expect this to make a difference, but it does. There is a cohesion at play and both groupings feel like completely different arrangements, both compositionally and thematically.

Of the two, side one is my favorite. It begins with a short, ambient intro (“Astride The Darklands”) and then launches into the title-track, which is an epic rendering of distorted riffs, aggressive melodies, and some of the best drumming I’ve heard in BM. Part of this is down to the clean production values which subdue the vocals, accentuate the riffs, and let the drums punch through in a rain of percussive explosions. The other part is simply the execution. Putting this in the context of the time, these musicians are evil geniuses. The final track of side one, “Down Among Them,” maintains the momentum with grayfield riffs and muted solos. The vocals on this track are pulled more into the foreground and are surprisingly well annunciated for being as guttural as they are.

Side two also starts with an ambient intro and similarly launches into full-on aggression by the second track. The third track, “Seven Layers Of Light,” reflects the nuance its title suggests and oscillates between meditative atmospheric and bellicose assault. I’m guessing this track was lifted in its complete analog glory from the demo and inserted here with minimal reconstructive surgery. Whereas side one feels like it could have been recorded this year, side two definitely comes across as a rerelease . . . which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a different vibe.

I’m not sure why this EP has been reissued some 20 years after its emergence, but I’m thankful for it. VULPECULA, and certainly “Fons Immortalis,” needs to be heard today. On one hand, they provide an historical perspective into the late 90’s BM scene in the US; on the other hand, the music is incredibly relevant to today’s international BM scene. Hoping they also rerelease “In Dusk Apparition,” but for now I’m thrilled happy to have a reborn “Fons Immortalis.”

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1.    Astride The Darklands
2.    Fons Immortalis
3.    Down Among Them
4.    Phoenix Of The Creation
5.    The First Point Of Aries
6.    Seven Layers Of Light
Lineup:
Chuck Keller – Bass, vocals, guitars, effects
Chris Overton – Drums, effects
Record Label: Nuclear War Now! Productions
     


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